Central Bedfordshire Council denies bullying claims

CLAIMS that bullying, harassment and discrimination are rife at a council have been rebuffed by the local authority.

The GMB union is calling for an independent inquiry “into the bullying culture by council management and councillors” at Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC).

It comes at a time when CBC employees are being asked to take a two per cent pay cut and the council is looking at making redundancies and reducing budgets.

The GMB says that 79 per cent of respondents to a survey of its members who work at the council feel they have been bullied, harassed or experienced discrimination at CBC.

Of these employees, 41 per cent said they had encountered the bullying as part of the council’s proposals to change their terms and conditions of work, while 21 per cent said it was because of their trade union activities.

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Other reasons cited included age, gender, race and disability.

Close to half – 42 per cent – accused a council manager of bullying them, while 11 per cent said they had been bullied by a Central Bedfordshire councillor.

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Bullying behaviour cited by employees included threatening behaviour, being bullied into signing new contracts, being threatened with dismissal, and being harassed unless you are a “favourite”.

“Extreme pressure” and an increased workload were also comments recorded.

GMB organiser Tony Hughes said: “Only a fully independent inquiry into this will free the council of the damning allegations.

“The examples of bullying and harassment are a total indictment of the council as an employer and its complete failure to give even the most basic consideration to its workers.”

Mr Hughes referred to a “high level of distrust and concern among GMB members” at the local authority.

Richard Carr, chief executive of CBC, said: “Central Bedfordshire Council does not tolerate bullying or harassment at work under any circumstances.

“We have well-established and promoted systems to encourage staff to raise concerns if they believe that they have been subjected to this sort of behaviour, so that any concerns can be fully investigated.

“We have repeatedly asked the GMB to provide information about individual complaints so we can investigate them, but to date no information has been provided.”

He continued: “There is no doubt these are difficult times for our staff.

“We are reducing budgets, consulting on changes to terms and conditions and having to let people go.

“We fully understand people may feel under pressure, but there is a big difference between that and bullying.”

Mr Carr has agreed to meet with GMB branch secretary Martin Foster on Monday, July 25, to discuss the union’s findings.

“We will then take any necessary action as appropriate,” he said.

* The survey is based on 419 replies from the workforce. The council employs 2110 people, excluding those who work at schools.

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